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PHILADLEPHIA - The last time the Penn wrestling team was on the mat, freshman Kyle Cowan was completing his best day as a collegian with a 5-1 win in the final bout against Virginia to break a 15-15 tie and send the Quakers to the bus with an 18-15 victory. After a weekend off, the Red and Blue are back at in with a pair of duals over the final weekend in January, hosting Bucknell (Jan. 29, 3 p.m.) and Hofstra (Jan. 30, 1 p.m.) inside The Palestra.
The Quakers are 5-3 in dual matches this season, finally settling down for a run of team competition heading into the final six weeks of the season. After only one back-to-back weekend of duals to this point (Jan. 9 and Jan. 16), the Red and Blue will be in dual action eight times over the next four weeks with sights set on the championship season starting Mar. 5 in Lewisburg at Bucknell University.
Penn has five wrestlers in the starting lineup who are giving head coach Rob Eiter a level of comfort in knowing that they are primed to produce when in dual competition. Not surprising is the fact that No. 19 Mark Rappo (7-1 in duals at 125), No. 4 Rollie Peterkin (7-0 at 133), No. 9 Zack Kemmerer (6-2 at 141), No. 18 Gabriel Burak (7-1 at 165) and No. 6 Micah Burak (7-0 at 197) are the quintet pacing Penn in dual competition.
What coach Eiter is looking for is for wrestlers outside that group to contribute and add points to the team score and help the Red and Blue avoid five-five splits like the one which resulted in a 25-23 loss for Penn the last time the team was home against Bloomsburg on Jan. 9.
Cowan may be ready to take that leap and swing the pendulum in Penn's favor after his breakthrough weekend in Virginia. He is now 4-3 in duals and 13-10 overall at heavyweight, the only other wrestler on the roster to be over .500 in dual competition. Cowan is one of four freshman in the starting lineup at the moment for Penn, joined by Andrew Lenzi (3-5 in duals at 149), Brad Wukie (1-3 in duals at 157) and Canaan Bethea (1-3 in duals at 174). Lenzi has the most difficult challenge of the rookies this weekend, schedule to wrestle No. 6 Kevin LeValley of Bucknell on Saturday.
LeValley is 21-1 on the season or the Bison (4-9 in duals, 0-3 EIWA) with his only loss coming to No. 4 Mario Mason of Rutgers in sudden victory, 3-1. At 197, the Bison have senior Jay Hahn who is 21-6 this season.
A quick turnaround awaits Penn as the Hofstra Pride will travel down from Long Island on Sunday for another chapter in the always-fierce rivalry between the two schools. The Quakers and Pride have wrestled every year since 2003, with Penn holding wins in the last two outings after six in a row going to the Pride.
The marquee match on Sunday will no doubt come at 133 pounds where No. 4 Peterkin will take on No. 6 Lou Ruggirello. The bout will be a rematch of the Southern Scuffle final where Peterkin handed Ruggirello a 6-0 defeat (just one of three losses for the senior this season). The match was close the entire way until Peterkin finished a tie-up with a five-point move, throwing Ruggirello to his back in the waning moments of the third period. For the two wrestlers currently high atop the national rankings, a win on Sunday goes a long way to securing a potential high seed at the NCAA Championships in March.
Ruggirello is one of three ranked wrestlers for Hofstra, joined by No. 10 P.J. Gillespie at 165 and No. 16 Ryan Patrovich at 174. The Pride are 7-3-1 in duals this season and went 3-1 at the CAA Duals last time out.
Probable Lineups for the Weekend:
Penn (5-3, 0-0 Ivy, 0-0 EIWA)
125 - No. 19 Mark Rappo, Jr. (18-5, 7-1 Duals)
133 - N0. 4 Rollie Peterkin, Sr. (19-1, 7-0 Duals)
141 - No. 9 Zack Kemmerer, Sr. (25-5, 6-2 Duals)
149 - Andrew Lenzi, Fr. (10-9, 3-5 Duals)
157 - Brad Wukie, Fr. (7-9, 1-3 Duals)
165 - No. 18 Gabriel Burak, Sr. (10-2, 7-1 Duals)
174 - Scott Giffin, Sr. (8-5, 1-3 Duals) or Canaan Bethea, Fr. (13-10, 1-3 Duals)
184 - Erich Smith, Jr. (1-1, 1-1 Duals) or Harrison Cook, So. (12-11, 3-3 Duals)
197 - No. 6 Micah Burak, So. (19-3, 7-0 Duals)
285 - Kyle Cowan, Fr. (13-10, 4-3 Duals)
Bucknell (4-9, 0-3 EIWA)
125 - Derek Reber, So. (12-10)
133 - Open
141 - Zac Hancock, So. (13-10)
149 - No. 6 Kevin LeValley, Sr. (21-1)
157 - Brantley Hooks, Sr. (14-9)
165 - Corey Lear, So. (18-9)
174 - Stephen McPeak, Fr. (12-7)
184 - Rob Waltko, Sr. (10-13)
197 - Jay Hahn, Sr. (21-6)
285 - Joe McMullen, So. (5-13)
Hofstra (7-3-1, 3-1 CAA)
125 - Steve Bonnano, So. (17-9)
133 - No. 6 Lou Ruggirello, Sr. (19-3)
141 - Vince Varela, Jr. (14-8)
149 - Matt Spataro, Jr. (6-10)
157 - Tyler Banks, So. (14-12)
165 - No. 10 P.J. Gillespie, Jr. (18-4)
174 - No. 16 Ryan Patrovich, Sr. (9-3)
184 - Ben Clymer, Jr. (12-7)
197 - Matt Loew, Fr. (8-18)
285 - Paul Snyder, So. (18-11)
Penn vs. Bucknell Notes:
The two teams have met 10 times in dual meets, with Hofstra holding a 6-4 lead. Penn has won the last two meetings, 32-12 at Hofstra 1/31/10 and 18-16 in The Palestra 1/31/09. In the last meeting in Philly, then-senior Rick Rappo scored an 8-2 win at 141 pounds for Penn in the final bout to give the Red and Blue the win. There is one potential rematch from the 2010 dual on the docket, at 165 pounds between Burak and Gillespie. The two actually met twice last season, with Burak scoring a 3-1 win at the Southern Scuffle and Gillespie winning 3-2 at the dual. In addition to the Peterkin-Ruggirello match, Mark Rappo has a potential bout with Steve Bonnano at 125 pounds. The two also met at the Southern Scuffle, with Rappo scoring a 4-3 decision over then-No. 15 Bonnano in the third round.